NCAA 2012 tournament predictions: Cinderellas Sure to Appear in the Elite Eight
San Diego State will make a run all the way to the Elite Eight at this year’s NCAA basketball tournament. The Aztecs are just one of the Cinderella teams that will take the tournament by surprise and upset a few along the way to the regional finals.
UNLV, Memphis and Wisconsin are among the other teams that will play this year’s darlings, going farther than anyone predicted before the tournament starts.
Here is a breakdown of how it will happen.
San Diego State
The Aztecs (26-7, 10-4 MWC) are the No. 6 seed in the Midwest region and will faceoff against NC State Friday to open their tournament.
That first game may be their most difficult as an athletic Wolfpack could shut down the strong outside shooters. But I expect SDSU to scrape by and get to the next round.
A team full of young players will benefit from being tested in their first game and come out much more at ease despite the stiffer competition in what will be Georgetown. The Hoyas are a strong squad, but will be outscored by hot handed Aztecs.
From there, State faces off in the Sweet 16 against Kansas. The place the team was eliminated from last year will be the upset of the tournament. The Jayhawks will take an early lead, but the Aztecs will fight back and eventually win a very close one, booking their place in the Elite Eight.
The rebels (26-8, 9-5 MWC) should have little issue getting by their first match, as they benefit from being the sixth seed in the South by playing a weak Colorado team.
Baylor will be a much tougher challenge in the next round, but their ability to spread the ball around the court will be enough to nullify the Bears athleticism. Averaging 17.7 assists per game is third best in the country and keeps the court spread at all times.
From there they go on to face Duke in the Sweet 16. The Blue Devils will go into the match the big favorites, but with a team that has been streaky all year, you never really know what to expect out of them.
Duke has an off night shooting, while the Rebels hit everything they put up, giving them a 10 point victory and a date with Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
The Tigers (26-8, 13-3 C-USA) find themselves at the No. 8 seed in the West, due to a weak schedule, but not necessarily a weak team.
They should get by St. Louis in the opening game with ease, as their experience in the tournament and history of performing well in it should be enough.
Which of these teams has the best chance of making the Elite Eight?
They will then face off against No. 1 Michigan State. The Spartan’s have a good shot at getting all the way to the Final Four, but could run into a hot shooting Memphis side. The Tigers shot nearly 50 percent from the field on the season and if they can find their rhythm, not even the defense of Tom Izzo could stop them.
From there they carry the momentum on to the Sweet 16 against Davidson, who also posted a few upsets along the way.
However, the pressure of playing a team that they know they can beat will get the Wildcats, and Memphis should glide into a Elite Eight appearance.
The Badgers (24-9, 12-6 Big Ten) at No. 4 are not exactly a Cinderella in the traditional sense. However, after they get by Montana and Harvard by playing suffocating defense, they will face off against a majority of the season’s No. 1 team, Syracuse.
Again the Badgers will not put up huge numbers, perhaps scoring less than 60, but they will keep the game slow and manageable through that incredible defense. Jim Boeheim’s young team will get frustrated by not being able to play the game they are use to and beat themselves.
It will be the best game of the tournament up to that point as the balance of the matchup always rests on a razors edge. But eventually it will fall to the Badgers, who will find themselves in showdown against Big Ten rivals Ohio State, for a chance to move on to the final four.
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